There are two words in the book of Ephesians that people often cite as the most important, most significant two words in that letter. Maybe even in all of scripture.
Ephesians 2 begins with a description of our spiritual condition before we come to know Jesus. It’s not a flattering picture. “You were dead,” Paul writes. Dead. Completely unresponsive to God. “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Before we heard and responded to the gospel, what drove us or motivated us was our own appetites and desires – the “passions of the flesh” or the “desires of the body and mind.” We didn’t care what God’s word said or what He wanted for us. We lived to satisfy ourselves. In fact, the Bible elsewhere says we were slaves to those desires. Our passions controlled us.
And there was nothing we could do about our condition. A dead man has no power to change his condition. A slave cannot set himself free.
Ephesians 2:4 begins with the two words that change everything for us.
“But God.” Those two words are words of revolution and transformation. They take what is true about our spiritual condition and bring about a complete reversal. What we could not do for ourselves, God did for us.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
What a stunning reversal. From death to life. From slavery to salvation. From outcasts to sons and daughters seated in the heavenly places with Jesus.
I thought about this passage on Monday as I led the memorial service for our dear friend Bob Boyd. Growing up in humble means in Mayflower, Arkansas, he led a life that was marked by significant accomplishments. He was a successful entrepreneur, a multi-talented musician, a marathon runner.
But as I shared at the memorial service, Bob would eventually come to see that his success and accomplishments in life did not satisfy the deep longings in his own soul. He eventually came to realize that he was a slave to his own passions. He was dead in his trespasses and sins.
Here’s how he described it.
Prior to my spiritual reawakening in 1978, my focus was on material things and self-gratification.
When I was 15 I had a spiritual experience, and I had been sincere in my teens, but I became more and more indifferent to spiritual matters.
After I graduated high school, my principal values were earning money, building my business, playing music and drinking.
My uncontrolled downward spiral into alcohol addiction produced more and more horrendous results and troubles in my life. And consequently in the lives of others. I was steadily and alarmingly doing things that were far removed from what I knew to be the right and godly way of living.
In 1978 God mercifully gave me a moment of clarity and a new vision of myself and what He had originally intended for me.
I desperately needed the forgiveness of Christ as illustrated in His Parable of the Prodigal Son. God showed me that Christ offers me a better life, and that He died on the cross to give me the hope of eternal life. He is still my only hope of surviving, spiritually and physically. He gave me the desire to go to any lengths necessary to recommit my life to Him. He gave me the will to ask Him to do for me what I could not do for myself; to free me from my addiction to alcohol and restore me to a right relationship with God, and security to be in His presence forever.
He also revealed to me that I could do nothing to “earn” a place in Heaven, that it is God’s free gift to me if I believe and trust Jesus and His sacrifice for me. God did remove my desire for alcohol and the life style it offered.
I was in awe of a God who could and would (and did) forgive me and heal my body and soul despite the way I had mistreated my “temple” for those past 25 years. I asked God to change me, and I became willing to do whatever He required.
God moved me to recommit my life to Christ, and to make Him first and foremost in my life.
The spiritual transformation that took place in Bob Boyd’s life in 1978 is the most important, the most significant moment of his life. It was his “but God” moment, when by grace, God opened the eyes and the heart of a dead man and gave him new life. Eternal life.
For all who know Jesus, that “but God” moment is the hinge point of our existence, now and forever. It’s a moment in time that redefines everything about us. And it’s something we should never get over. Bob Boyd never did. Even today, and for the rest of eternity, he will celebrate the amazing grace and mercy of the God who brought him from death to life.
Let that sink in for you today. Take time to marvel at the goodness of our God, who had shown us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
TRUNK OR TREAT
Next week, we’ll be spreading the word in our neighborhood about our Trunk or Treat event on Friday night, October 30.
|Thanks to all who have dropped off bags of candy at church for us to hand out that evening. |
We still need a few trunks for that evening. Again, all you’d have to do is put a simple game together and man your trunk in a socially distanced manner. We’ll provide you with the candy to give away. Let Jen Gurney know you’re up for it. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org ).
And please continue to pray that God will use this event to help us demonstrate love to our neighbors and build relationships with people in our community. Pray that God will water the gospel seeds we’re hoping to plant that evening.
Did Jesus really tell a woman who was caught in the act of adultery to “go and sin no more?” Did that event really happen? If not, why is it in the Bible? And are there other passages in the Bible that don’t belong? We’ll explore why there is an asterisk by that particular story in John 8 as we gather this Sunday for worship.
See you (in person or on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!